Participation in college athletics can be a rewarding experience for young men and women on campuses across the country. Student-athletes enjoy attention and opportunity that can enhance their college experience and bring money, prestige and goodwill to the entire university community.
While colleges and universities celebrate and reward their student-athletes, they also place them in a fishbowl of scrutiny. Athletes receive unusual attention on and off campus, given their celebrity. Their every move is subject to the judgment of others, which creates risk for both the athletes and the schools they attend. Student-athletes are presented with unique opportunities, but may also confront temptations that can lead to destructive outcomes.
Hunton & Williams LLP has created a prevention program designed to help colleges and universities prepare their student-athletes, coaches, administrators and others for this enhanced scrutiny. We have specifically created a curriculum that sets forth a lengthy list of threats faced by college athletes. Our program is designed to help these students and those who work with them understand the various ways in which their celebrity makes them targets and threatens their scholarships, liberty, reputation and future professional opportunities.
Our program covers concepts of criminal law and helps college athletes and those who work with them understand the legal risks presented by certain categories of conduct. We provide practical advice about interactions with police. We demystify legal concepts such as conspiracy, constructive possession and effective consent to sexual conduct. Using real world examples, we demonstrate how the scrutiny that follows student-athletes creates pressure on decision-makers within the criminal justice system, resulting in unexpected charges, convictions and other consequences.
In addition to criminal justice issues, our program provides practical prevention advice by outlining threats that have damaged the careers and reputations of student-athletes across the country. We specifically focus on:
- the misuse of drugs and alcohol, both recreational and performance-enhancing;
- allegations of sexual misconduct, and the long-term consequences of unwanted pregnancy;
- the availability of financial benefits from agents and boosters, as well as individuals who seek to scam athletes or use their status to perpetuate fraud;
- the requirement to maintain academic standing and the temptation of cheating and academic fraud;
- the use of social media to interact with fans, and the permanence of Internet-based communication;
- the prohibition on gambling and historical point-shaving scandals; and
- the lure of old friends/family members looking to use the athlete’s celebrity for his or her personal gain.
The conduct of student-athletes creates risk for colleges and universities, not just the athletes involved. A school’s reputation and brand are tarnished by the misconduct of its students, impacting alumni relations, applications and financial stability. We are available to assist colleges, universities and their student-athletes navigate specific crises as they arise. We specifically provide:
- internal investigations regarding specific events and advice as to possible responses;
- interaction with law enforcement and other investigators and resolution of allegations of misconduct;
- public relations strategies to minimize reputational damage to the school and individuals involved; and
- access to a network of lawyers, counselors, financial advisers, public relations consultants and other professionals to provide advice and support to colleges, universities and the student-athletes involved.
Our team includes former college athletes, law enforcement professionals and experienced higher education professionals. Our experience as prosecutors gives us an informed perspective on the criminal justice system and helps us translate these legal concepts in understandable ways. We have also represented college and professional athletes and are familiar with the various legal and personal issues faced by our clients. Athletes have credibility with other athletes, which enhances our perspective and makes our presentation more effective. College faculty and administrators help student-athletes understand how these large institutions operate and provide experience and insight to peer institutions. We use actual examples to illustrate how these various criminal justice and other threats have impacted athletes and their schools across the country. In short, we provide front- and back-end services on these issues of risk.